This Chicken Shawarma recipe is going to knock your socks off! Just a handful of every day spices makes an incredible Chicken Shawarma marinade that infuses the chicken with exotic Middle Eastern flavours. Make Chicken Shawarma wraps, serve it with a rice pilaf and fresh salads, try this once and you’ll be addicted as I am!
This is another one of my signature recipes that will be very familiar to all my friends because I make this so often. It’s off the charts for effort vs output: just a handful of everyday spices, garlic, a splash of lemon and olive oil transforms into the most incredible flavour.
When this chicken is cooking, the smell is incredible. Incredible!!! This Chicken Shawarma is how I met most of my neighbours when I lived in a townhouse complex in Annandale (on the outskirts of Sydney city). The courtyard was out the front and when I had friends round for a BBQ, random people I had never met before popped their head up over the fence, wanting to know what on earth I was making. They were elated when I handed out samples! (Lucky I always over cater. 🙂 Always have, always will. Leftovers rock!)
This, along with the Vietnamese Noodles with Lemongrass Chicken, are two of my most frequently made foods when I’m cooking for a crowd because it’s easy to make loads, they are both great “lay it all out and let everyone serve themselves” type foods (I’m a big fan of food like that), and it travels well. I’ve made this multiple times on camping trips (along with the Vietnamese Noodles and Greek Gyros!).
Plus, there are always willing blokes around to take control of the BBQ (beer in hand) while us girls sit back sipping wine. That’s an arrangement that suits me great! 😉
There are two main ways to serve Chicken Shawarma. As Chicken Shawarma wraps – with tomato, lettuce, and a simple yoghurt sauce on the side. Other optional extras include: red onion, cheese (query authenticity?), hummus, hot sauce / chilli sauce.
And the other way is with rice and salads on the side. Thought I usually do serve pita bread or another type of flatbread as well, just because it’s very on theme. ☺️ Here, the Chicken Shawarma is pictured with Mejadra which is a Middle Eastern lentil rice (seriously so good you can / will want to eat it just by itself!) and a Middle Eastern Chickpea Salad. (Note that the chickpea salad has spiced chickpeas but I don’t spice the chickpeas when serving it with Chicken Shawarma because otherwise there’s just too much kapow spices going on. It’s a gorgeous Yotam Ottolenghi recipe.)
Oh! I almost forgot! This recipe was part of a 7 course Arabian Feast menu that I shared 2 years ago! I didn’t get around to redoing all the recipes, but I will one day! I love that menu because so much of it can be prepared ahead, and there’s lots of common ingredients (herbs and spices). Get yourself organised, eliminate distractions and commit to your kitchen temporarily being a war zone and you’ll get most the prep done in 1 hour. 🙂
I have a theory that a lot of people love the flavours of Middle Eastern food but are not sure how to combine spices to achieve the aromatic flavour that is so unique to the region. It always surprises me when I make a Middle Eastern dish that I usually have most of the ingredients in my pantry and all I need is to get the fresh produce. But thinking it through, it makes sense because the spices that are most commonly used in Middle Eastern dishes are spices like coriander, cumin, cinnamon and paprika which are pantry essentials in most households (I think).
So I think Chicken Shawarma is a great example of Middle Eastern dish that showcases how a handful of everyday ingredients can be combined together for an incredible flavour that smells and tastes so exotic!
Be prepared for amazing smells when you’re cooking this Chicken Shawarma! – Nagi xx
PS Try your hand at making your own flatbreads. My recipe is made without yeast so they’re super easy!
- 2 lb/1 kg chicken thigh fillets, skinless and boneless (Note 3)
- 1 large garlic clove, minced (or 2 small cloves)
- 1 tbsp ground coriander
- 1 tbsp ground cumin
- 1 tbsp ground cardamon
- 1 tsp ground cayenne pepper (reduce to ½ tsp to make it not spicy)
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 2 tsp salt
- Black pepper
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup Greek yoghurt
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 1 tsp cumin
- Squeeze of lemon juice
- Salt and pepper
- 6 flatbreads (Lebanese or pita bread orhomemade soft flatbreads)
- Sliced lettuce (cos or iceberg)
- Tomato slices
- Combine the marinade ingredients in a large ziplock bag (or bowl).
- Add the chicken and use your hands to make sure each piece is coated. If using a ziplock bag, I find it convenient to close the bag then massage the bag to disperse the rub all over each chicken piece.
- Marinate overnight or up to 24 hours.
- Combine the Yoghurt Sauce ingredients in a bowl and mix. Cover and put in the fridge until required (it will last for 3 days in the fridge).
- Heat grill/BBQ (or large heavy based pan on stove) on medium high. You should not need to oil it because the marinade has oil in it and also thigh fillets have fat. But if you are worried then oil your hotplate/grill. (See notes for baking)
- Place chicken on the grill and cook the first side for 4 to 5 minutes until nicely charred, then turn and cook the other side for 3 to 4 minutes (the 2nd side takes less time).
- Remove chicken from the grill and cover loosely with foil. Set aside to rest for 5 minutes.
- Slice chicken and pile onto platter alongside flatbreads, Salad and the Yoghurt Sauce.
- To make a wrap, get a piece of flatbread and smear with Yoghurt Sauce. Top with a bit of lettuce and tomato and Chicken Shawarma. Roll up and enjoy!
This also works well made ahead, which I recently did when I made this for 50 people as part of a multi-course meal. I grilled it in the morning and cut it up. Then prior to serving it was just heated up in the microwave. Toss it with the juices pooled at the bottom of the dish and no one will guess it was cooked earlier in the day!
2. If using large lebanese bread as pictured (diameter is almost 30cm/1 foot), you need around 300g/10oz of chicken per person (raw) to fully fill them out without tucking the ends in. 200 - 250g/7 - 8oz per person seems to be enough on average, but I always end up providing more!
3. Chicken - I use 6 pieces approx 5oz/150g each.
Chicken breast: I feel strongly that this is best made with thigh because it's got more fat so you get beautiful caramelisation. But it's still super tasty made with chicken breast. The best way is to cut them in half horizontally to make 2 thin steaks no thicker than 1 cm/ 2/5" each. If needed, pound lightly. Marinate per recipe. Then cook on a high heat (not medium high per recipe) for just 2 minutes on each side until golden. They will be juicy and beautiful inside!
4. Suggestions for things to make on the side:
* Mejadra (pictured in post) - Middle Eastern lentil rice
* Chickpea Rice Pilaf- slightly less spiced than Mejadra
* Middle Eastern Chickpea Salad (a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe, skip the spicing of chickpeas to keep it fresher)
* Also see 7 Course Arabian Feast (summary below recipe)
5. BAKING: Cooking on a BBQ or stove is best to get the caramelisation. Baking doesn't yield quite the same flavour - but still very good! Bake at 425F/220C for 20 - 25 minutes until a browned.
6. Nutrition for chicken only because flatbreads vary so much in size and calories.Assuming 6 servings.
Originally published December 2014, updated with fresh stories, fresh photos and a recipe video!
Chicken Shawarma recipe video! You can almost smell the heady aroma through the screen….almost!!!?
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Chicken Shawarma nutrition excludes Yoghurt Sauce and assumes 6 servings.
Arabian Feast Menu
Here is a summary of the Arabian Feast Menu that I shared 2 years ago! I haven’t updated all the recipes yet – I’ll get to them eventually!
For the Men to Grill: Lamb Koftas, Chicken Shawarma (this recipe)
LIFE OF DOZER
This shot pretty much encompasses how utterly predictable Dozer is:
✅ Skulking near a big pile of meat
✅ Squeezing himself under a tiny table laden with said food
✅ Eyes sparkling at the possibilities
✅ Licking his lips in anticipation